“Filipino mothers could not stretch their budget anymore, but the government remains complacent. It does nothing to control the rising prices of goods and services that have long pushed down Filipino women and their families into poverty.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — While many are busy about the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, Aileen Sangkap, 38 is busy struggling to be able to feed her four children. She’s busy helping her family subsist on her meager income as a vendor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
“I have to work first,” Sangkap told Bulatlat.com. “Their families,” (referring to senators and congressmen) “have plenty to eat. We, on the other hand, have to work to have something to eat,” Sangkap says.
Aileen Sangkap has to devote all her time to making both ends meet, rather than watching the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil / bulatlat.com)
A widow, Sangkap feels like she has to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders just to ensure her children’s survival. She sells rice cakes, “banana cue and camote cue.” But it hardly suffices for their needs.
Her children, aged 14, 17 and 19, have stopped going to school because they could no longer afford it. Her youngest, only 11 years old, is only on his second grade. “She often stops from studying because we often have no money.”
Sangkap’s family is one of the 4.5 million families who experienced hunger in the Philippines. The recent Social Weather Station survey shows that in the last quarter of 2011, almost a fourth or an estimated 4.5 million of Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.
According to women’s group Gabriela, it is the women who bear the brunt of worsening poverty in the country. They criticized the government for its inaction on rising prices of fuel products. Lana Linaban, secretary general of Gabriela, said the recent increase in LPG prices, a whopping P6 ($.14) per kilogram, would bring more problems to Filipino women.
“The mothers could not stretch their budget anymore. But the government remains complacent. They have not done anything to control the rising prices of goods and services that have long pushed down Filipino women and their families into poverty,” Linaban said.
In the shelter
Two mothers from Corazon de Jesus in San Juan Cty, Manila, said their lives became even more difficult as they find it harder to stretch their meager income to cover their daily needs now that they are also homeless. The families of Yonie Gamayon, 55, and her friend Corazon Garsain, 50, are among the residents demolished from Corazon de Jesus last January 11, 2012 to give way to the local government’s plan to build a government city, including a city hall, patterned after the United States’ White House.
“When we are hungry, we would just sleep. Sometimes, I just drink lots of water to ease the hunger,” Gamayon, a mother of three, said. “You are lucky if you can borrow money or ask food from your neighbors.”
Gamayon, like Sangkap, is already widowed. Her husband was a police who was killed in 1986 when he responded to a bank robbery back in their province in Leyte. Since then, she raised her children by herself. In 1997, Gamayon and her three children went to Manila in hope that they would find luck. They lived in Corazon de Jesus since then.
She washed laundry for a living from well-off families within the city. If time permits, she sells cooked food and banana cue. “One job is not enough to feed three children,” Gamayon added.
Instant noodles became their staple food. “I would put lots of water when I am cooking instant noodles. I would add salt and vetsin (monosodium glutamate) to keep the flavor. Sometimes, I add vegetables,” Gamayon said, adding that a soup like instant noodles is important to their family every meal because it serves as a filler when they are short of viand.
Garsain, on the other hand, said that she miss her children very much. They were forced to part ways after the demolition. She sent them to their relatives to live with them for a while.
“We would rather eat almost nothing than to part ways with our family because of the demolition,” Gamayon said, sharing her friend’s agony.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus said the security of women and her family from hunger is threatened by the worsening economic crisis. “As the family’s income dwindles further because of spiraling prices of basic commodities, the women’s burden becomes heavier because they are customarily tasked to make both ends meet,” De Jesus said.
While many avidly follow the twists and turns of the impeachment hearing, Sangkap does not. What matters to her is earning to feed her family.
“I am reminded of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein – ‘An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.’ It is not enough that the Aquino administration has fed the Filipino public the ongoing Corona impeachment case. It has to create more jobs and rescind its anti-people economic policies so as to allow the increasing number of hungry Filipinos to feed themselves,” De Jesus said.
Sangkap agrees that people should participate in making history, but there are other things that one has to prioritize, like house rent, school needs and transportation fare, among others. She tells the government, aside from impeachment, the government should also give jobs.